Community Capacity Building, Community Development and Health: A Case Study of ‘Health Issues in the Community’
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This research project aimed to further knowledge regarding the relationship between community capacity building (CCB), community development and health within the context of the Health Issues in the Community (HIIC) programme. CCB refers to the development of capabilities to identify and address community issues and was conceptualised using four dimensions: participation, resource mobilisation, links with others and role of outside agents. HIIC is a learning resource supported by NHS Health Scotland, the national health promotion agency. The main objective of HIIC is to help students explore the processes involved in tackling health-related concerns in the community. The main concepts in this study were explored by referring to a range of academic literatures and five research questions were formulated. ‘How did HIIC tutors and students understand the concept of community and was this understanding influenced by completing HIIC?’, ‘How did stakeholders and tutors understand the notion of CCB?’, ‘Was CCB evident in the experiences of the students after their involvement with the course?’, ‘Did participating in the HIIC course contribute towards furthering students’ understanding about health?’ and ‘Did participating in HIIC have any other impact on participants?’ Face-to-face, semi-structured interviews were conducted across Scotland with three participant groups: stakeholders, tutors and students. This involved a total of thirtyfive interviews with students and tutors from eleven different courses. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis. Four key themes emerged: community, CCB, health, and impact of learning. Tutors and students suggested that people could be members of multiple communities. Community was understood as a geographical location, a common interest and as a sense of belonging. Tutors also considered the community as a site of professional practice. Some participants had an expectation that community members should act collectively to help one another. Completing HIIC appeared to influence students’ understanding about their own circumstances, issues within their community and how it functions, rather than informing how they defined the concept of community. CCB was seen by tutors as a process that develops competencies to address community issues. Stakeholders and tutors differed in their views about whether CCB was an individual level or a collective process. Participants likened CCB to community development, but stakeholders questioned if it shared the same value base or if it was an outcome of community development. Tutors expressed a range of opinions about their understanding of CCB. It was viewed as a potentially helpful idea in terms of understanding the work of community / health-based practitioners. However, others were unable to give a definition of CCB and some tutors considered CCB a concept with little meaning or an indicator to fulfil in the context of a funding application. The manifestation of individual aspects of CCB were identified in the accounts of some participants, but the data did not support the contention that HIIC promoted CCB, within the timescale of this study, although, it could be argued that latent CCB was developed. The data did indicate that participants’ understanding about the concept of health was reaffirmed, broadened or changed and that participating in HIIC could increase an individual’s awareness of social and health issues, develop interpersonal skills and widen social networks. This study indicated that by exploring the concepts of CCB, community and health, a contribution was made towards understanding the processes by which participating in a HIIC course influenced students to address health-related concerns.